A first-round pick out of Northern Illinois, Ward is a former beloved prospect whose high expectations haven't been met early in his career, though position changes and injury can perhaps be blamed to a considerable extent. Ward played quite a bit of cornerback to this point in his four-year career, limiting his career high in tackles to 57. But Ward is expected to focus on free safety this year, a position he proved dominant at in college. Playing free safety might limit Ward's tackle upside somewhat, but this is a player who intercepted 10 passes in his last two years of college.
Yet another 49ers defender who stands to benefit from the Chip Kelly bump, Ward is a former first-round pick at safety who has yet to stand out in the NFL, but probably has the tools to finally do it in 2016. He'll likely start at corner for San Francisco while moving into the slot in nickel formations, which will give him the chance to defend the run more often than a purely outside corner. Still, Ward is a boom-or-bust IDP consideration due to the speculative nature of his exact role.
Ward was in-and-out of the lineup in 2014, missing eight games due to quad and foot issues. Despite being drafted as a safety, the 49ers used Ward as their nickelback against three-and-four receiver sets. His size (5-foot-10, 193 pounds) was one of the main reasons San Francisco used him at corner rather than safety, and he will likely resume that role in 2015.
Ward was the 49ers' first round pick in 2014, and he figures to line up in three-safety sets and also as a nickel cornerback. While he is undersized (5-10), Ward provides excellent agility and closing speed. He is still recovering from foot surgery this off-season, but he should be ready by the time training camp begins.